|Why Kevin Faulk decided he wasn’t done with football or the Patriots||07.30.11 at 3:57 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After signing a new contract to return to the Patriots for a 13th season, veteran running back Kevin Faulk said Bill Belichick was the biggest reason he was motivated to rehab his knee following surgery and come back to the team.
“Honestly speaking, before the lockout started, Bill called me and told me, ‘Hey Kevin, I want you on my team in 2011.’ That was motivation enough for me to go out and rehab my butt off and get ready for the season, whenever it may be and whenever it may come,” Faulk said Saturday at Gillette Stadium. “So, that was pretty much enough for me.”
Faulk tore the ACL in his right knee during a Week 2 loss to the Jets last season at the New Meadowlands Stadium. He had reconstructive surgery in October, ending his 2010 season. Faulk, who turned 35 on June 5, is the longest-tenured Patriot on the roster, entering his 13th season. Last season, Faulk was limited to just two games due to an injury. He had eight rushing attempts for 45 yards and caught six passes for 62 yards.
The versatile Faulk has filled numerous roles since joining the team in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU. He is the Patriots’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,247) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,030 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 932 punt return yards).
He was asked several questions at noontime press conference at Gillette Stadium about why and how he rehabbed and decided to come back to the Patriots.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to come back for another year and was retirement a real consideration this offseason?
KF: The day I got hurt. That was it.
Q: So you knew that wasn’t going to be the last thing you did playing football?
KF: That was my mindset, but at the same time I knew I had to make the football team.
Q: Did you watch any of the draft as the Patriots were drafting running backs and did that give you a little more motivation?
KF: Of course I watched the draft and while they were drafting running backs. It didn’t faze me or anything because that’s what this team does; they build a championship team and whatever they have to do, that’s what they’re going to do. And I’m a competitor. That’s why I play this game. I want to compete with the best in the NFL.
Q: When you got hurt, you did say that you’d have to see how the rehab process went before you knew if you could really come back. Was there a certain point in the year when you knew you really could do it?
KF: Of course. Whenever you’re going through it, you have to [wait and] see what’s going to happen with it and how your body is going to respond to it. And there was a point [when] I started feeling it coming back and it started feeling really good and from there, it was just, ‘Keep going, keep pushing yourself.’
Q: Do you remember when that was?
KF: I’d say about two month ago – a month and a half, two months ago.
Q: Right before the player practices at Boston College maybe?
KF: Pretty much, exactly.
Q: When you see all the change around here and the league, and especially in Bill Belichick’s system where he’s trying to get this team better, how much pride do you take in the fact that you’ve been here for so long and seen so much and you’re coming back for another season?
KF: A whole lot. I think it’s like my agent told me, it speaks volumes about me as a professional, as a person and the consistency that I’ve put in here, because being here takes a whole lot.
Q: Do you ever take a moment to reflect on everything you have seen here and keep it in perspective that way?
KF: At times, because the things that you’ve seen and that you’ve learned – you can teach younger guys some things that they may not know or may not understand about the game or being in the NFL and being a professional.
Q: Were any of your teammates lobbying for you to come back this offseason?
KF: Well, I worked out with Mayo – the ‘Mayo Group’ as they would call it – and there wasn’t a doubt in their minds that I would be able to come back, especially working out and then seeing me doing the things that I needed to do and doing pretty much what they were doing.
Q: How much did you miss being away from here?
KF: A whole lot, very much so. Just being able to walk in the building on Wednesday, being able to walk in the building this morning and see some of the guys and them telling me how much they miss me, how good it is to see me in the building. It made me feel good as a football player and as a person.
Q: How hard was last year on you?
KF: It was very hard – really hard – but sometimes God does things to help you look at other things, and that’s how I took it after a while. And then to come back and be on the football field and see the guys doing well, that really helped me out a whole lot as well.
Q: Was there any other team you would have come back for?
KF: You want me to make that comment again? No, there was none.
Q: So it was here or nothing?
Q: How much does it factor into your willingness to come back that this team is essentially competing for a Super Bowl almost every season?
KF: It’s a huge factor, but it’s [also] the organization, the coaching staff, the will to learn the game of football each and every year, different aspects of it, and that’s why I love it here.
Q: When you see a guy like Albert Haynesworth, whose reputation precedes him, what’s your reaction to that? And does it put more of the burden on the veterans in the locker room to instill the Patriot way?
KF: I’ve been hearing that a lot – instill the Patriot way – but it’s kind of ironic that when a guy comes here, it’s already in him. He wants to come here for that reason, and that’s to win a championship and win football games to be a better football player. And there’s no better coach to do that than Bill.
Q: What do you know about Chad Ochocino personally, and have you had a chance to sit down and talk with him during your career? How did he look out there today?
KF: Well, I’ve known him just from playing against him, but personally and watching him play, he’s a great athlete, just seeing the things that he’s done in the NFL. And coming to our team, he’s going to have to learn a little bit, but at the same time he’s an athlete and he will. He will adapt to it.
Q: Do you know Stevan Ridley at all through the LSU connection?
KF: Of course I have. [He’s a] very smart player. He learns quickly and that’s what Bill loves about him. That’s what the coaching staff loves about him – how smart he was, and how he picked up on things when they actually went out to see him.
Q: How important is it for you, as one of the five players still on the team to have won a Super Bowl here, to remind players about that culture and that era?
KF: It’s important, but it’s not as important because it’s now; it’s not back then. It’s now. It’s what we have to do today, tomorrow and they day after to move forward to get this team to that point. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what happened six, seven years ago.
Q: Back to the knee – you said you’re feeling better physically, but are you over the injury mentally?
KF: That’s why I have to get on the football field. That’s one thing. I know physically I feel good, but mentally I want to get out there and see how it is getting hit, pushing and pulling against linebackers and stuff. And you know, that’s just the process of it.
Q: Do you think the new NFL rules and how teams are preparing differently this year is going to affect that? Do you wonder about that?
KF: Of course I do, but you can’t control it. You can only control what you can control and you have to move on. Like right now, I can’t do anything until August 4 and that’s just another wall they put in front of me, but at the same time I’m going to move around it and wait until August 4.
Q: You’ve had a few other teammates who have gone through in knee injuries like Wes Welker and Tom Brady. Have you talked to them at all about the rehab process and returning to the game?
KF: Of course, all the time. Wes has been telling me, ‘Man, you had a great advantage of being hurt early on in the season and coming back a year later,’ which is true. I credit him for the way he came back last year, how fast he came back, but he can tell you and Tom can tell you, for me, that was probably one of the toughest things – to have knee surgery and then have a lockout and not be able to see my trainers, [converse] with my trainers and try to do rehab on my own. Credit to the LSU training staff – they helped me out a whole lot, but at the same time, not being able to [converse] with my trainers over here, it was very hard.
Q: Do you feel any extra motivation this year due to how well Danny Woodhead filled in for you last year?
KF: I’m motivated to play football each and every day, so it doesn’t matter who’s on the football field. But credit to Danny for what he did for this football team last year. He did a wonderful job.
Q: How do you go from helping those guys last year to competing this year?
KF: It’s pretty much the same, but at the same time, you have to know that you are actually competing and that’s what I do. That’s what I’ve been doing for 12 years.
Q: You mentioned Stevan Ridley, but have you had any contact with Shane Vereen and what has been your impression of him?
KF: Same thing: he seems like a very sharp guy. Like I said, they won’t bring a guy in here that they don’t feel like is very sharp and that can pick up on what we’re doing as a football team and as an organization.
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